The Democratic Republic of the Congo (French: République démocratique du Congo), sometimes referred to as DR Congo, DRC, Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Zaire, or RDC, is a country located in the African Great Lakes region of Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world. With a population of over 75 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the nineteenth most populous nation in the world, the fourth most populous nation in Africa, as well as the most populous officially Francophone country.
It is bordered by the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north; Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi in the east; Zambia and Angola to the south; the Republic of the Congo, the Angolan exclave of Cabinda, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west; and is separated from Tanzania by Lake Tanganyika in the east.
The country has access to the ocean through a 40-kilometre (25 mi) stretch of Atlantic coastline at Muanda and the roughly 9 km wide mouth of the Congo River which opens into the Gulf of Guinea. It has the second-highest total Christian population in Africa.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo was formerly known as, in chronological order, Congo Free State, Belgian Congo,Republic of the Congo, and Zaïre. Although located in the Central African UN sub region, the nation is also economically and regionally affiliated with Southern Africa as a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The name “Democratic Republic of the Congo” was the official name of the country from 1964–71. In 1992, the Sovereign National Conference voted to change to name from “Zaire”, but it was never put into practice. It was restored by former president Laurent Kabila following the fall of long time dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
The rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo contain great biodiversity, including many rare and endemic species, such as the common chimpanzee and the bonobo, the African forest elephant, mountain gorilla, okapi and white rhino. Five of the country’s national parks are listed as World Heritage Sites: the Garumba, Kahuzi-Biega, Salonga and Virunga National Parks, and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve.
DRC NATIONAL PARKS
VIRUNGA NATIONAL PARKS
The Virunga National Park (French: Parc National des Virunga), formerly named Albert National Park, is a 7,800-square-kilometre (3,000 sq mi) National Park that stretches from the Virunga Mountains in the South, to the Rwenzori Mountains in the North, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, bordering Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.
The park was established in 1925 as Africa’s first national park and is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site since 1979. In recent years poaching and the Congo Civil War have seriously damaged its wildlife population. The park is managed by the Congolese N
ational Park Authorities, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) and its partner the Africa Conservation Fund (UK).
The park is known for its exceptional (bio)diversity, containing more bird, mammal and reptile species than any protected area on the African continent. Although mountain gorillas are now extremely rare and listed as one of the most critically endangered species, successful conservation work has helped to secure the remaining populations. Their populations actually increased during the years of political upheaval in the region (1994–2004), and have continued to do so even throughout the difficult period of 2007-2008. The 2010 Mountain Gorilla census has indicated that the conservation efforts of Virunga have been very successful regarding the Gorilla population. Both savannah and forest elephants as well as chimpanzees and low land gorillas can still be found in Virunga, along with Okapi, giraffes,buffaloes and many endemic birds. The neighboring Mount Hoyo area was managed with the park and is home to a population of Bambuti(Pygmy people), caves and waterfalls.
However , over the last four years the park has seen remarkable regeneration, with heavy investment in tourism development, social infrastructure as well as safety. Currently over 3000 tourists a year visit the southern sector of Virunga National Park to admire the gorillas as well as the lava lake of the Nyiragongo Volcano.
KAHUZI BIEGA NATIONAL PARK
The Kahuzi-Biega National Park is a protected area near Bukavu town in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It is situated near the western bank of Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border. Established in 1970, the park is named after two dormant volcanoes, Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega, which are within its limits.
With an area of 6,000 square kilometres (2,300 sq mi), Kahuzi-Biega is one of the biggest national parks in the country.
Set in both mountainous and lowland terrain, it is one of the last refuges of the rare species of Eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), an endangered category under the IUCN Red List.
The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed in 1980 for its unique biodiversity of rainforest habitat and its eastern lowland gorillas.
The park lies west of the Bakavu town in South Kivu Province, covering an area of 6000 km2. A small part of the park is inMitumba Mountain range of the Albertine Rift in the Great Rift Valley, and the larger part is in lowland terrain.
A corridor of 7.4 kilometres (4.6 mi) width joins the mountainous and lowland terrain. The eastern part of the park is the smaller mountainous region measuring 600 square kilometres (230 sq mi); the larger part measures 5,400 square kilometres (2,100 sq mi) and consists mainly of lowland stretching from Bukavu to Kisangani, drained by the Luka and Lugulu rivers which flow into theLualaba River.
Two dormant volcanoes are set within the park’s limits and lend their names to it: Kahuzi (3,308 metres (10,853 ft)) and Biéga (2,790 metres (9,150 ft)